December 09, 2021  

Meet a PepsiCo Associate Defending Against Online Imposters

How Larissa Spies’ work removing fraudulent social media accounts keeps PepsiCo’s consumers, executives and brands safer on the internet.

There is only one Ramon Laguarta. On social media, though, dozens have posed as the Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. “We’ve seen a good amount of people pretending to be him,” Larissa Spies says — more than 40 over the past three years, to be exact. “He doesn’t have the time to be looking for impersonators, so it’s my job to have his back.”

As a Digital Reputation Analyst for PepsiCo, Larissa does that by chasing down, identifying and eliminating those fake accounts from social media platforms, ensuring there is no mistaking who the real Ramon is. “It’s really important that the messages PepsiCo is communicating are truly authentic, and that our executives are not having their reputations damaged,” she explains.

Larissa’s role is part content management and part identity defense. Her duties on the Digital Reputation team include tracking online conversation about the company; setting up and verifying branded accounts; and advising on the best social media posting practices.

She is also purely responsible for the executive protection program, which monitors the social media presences of Ramon and approximately 230 other company executives with a tool that scours the internet looking for imposters. Larissa scrolls through accounts claiming to belong to PepsiCo brands or executives and determines whether they’re legitimate or need to be deleted. “We’ve removed around 500 accounts this year between executives and brands,” Larissa says.

The Digital Reputation team’s efforts are crucial not only for the business, but for its consumers, too. “Being consumer-centric is very central to my work,” Larissa says. Some of those fake accounts are used to sell counterfeit products or capture people’s personal information. Others are used to execute scams such as creating fraudulent job postings, which ask people to pay to interview for roles that aren’t real. “We’ve seen people get scammed out of hundreds of dollars. These are things we need to protect our consumers from,” Larissa says. “I’m always wanting to advocate for our consumers and show that we value them.”

I’m always wanting to advocate for our consumers and show that we value them.

That’s a role Larissa says “feels like was made for me, honestly.” She’s not just protecting PepsiCo; in her mind she’s protecting what is practically the family business. Larissa is a third-generation PepsiCo employee — her grandfather was a VP on the team that struck the deal to trade Pepsi syrup to the Soviet Union in exchange for Stolichnaya vodka in 1972. Her mother and father met working in the IT department. Add in an uncle who was a merchandiser, and they have more than 75 years of PepsiCo service between them.

Larissa Spies and her father, Mike, a longtime PepsiCo employee

Larissa and her father, Mike, a longtime PepsiCo employee.

“My dad was promoted the day I was born. So this company has always been a part of my life,” Larissa says. “I told everyone that my dad made soda. I went to bring your child to work day. I just thought it was so neat.” It sparked an enthusiasm for PepsiCo that rivals sports fandom. “All throughout school, I knew I wanted to end up working at PepsiCo,” she says, to the point that she wore Pepsi-logo socks to each of her job interviews with the company, just for an extra bit of luck. 

And she grew up immersed in the company’s history. There is an entire wall in her parents’ game room dedicated to the family’s extensive collection of Pepsi memorabilia. The eclectic assortment features items including signs found at antique sales, limited-edition Shaquille O’Neal longneck glass bottles produced in the 1990s and a recent score: a model motorcycle made from Pepsi cans. “It was something we always showed people when they came over because it’s so central to us as a family,” Larissa says.

One of Larissa’s most cherished possessions is a letter from a former PepsiCo treasurer to her grandfather, congratulating him on becoming a vice president. It serves as both a tie to her family’s PepsiCo legacy and an achievement to strive for. “To be able to do this work to protect our reputation, I feel like I have a very small piece of a very big company I feel so strongly about,” Larissa says. “And I want to work my way up. I want to be a leader here one day, too.”